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Why Patience is a Misunderstood Strength

People often wrongly associate patience with being passive

A 25-year-old client tells me: “I am surrounded by everyone who wants to hustle, move swiftly in their careers, make the most connections and optimize their early work years. So, while I want to do well, excel at work, I feel that I don’t like who I am becoming—impatient with my relationships, very little tolerance for delays and the idea of waiting seems like futility. Do you think I can learn how to develop patience and sustain my ambition?”

Patience is one of the most underestimated strengths, one we all can develop. Not just that, patience is misunderstood to a large extent. Very often people wrongly associate patience with being passive, or the absence of boundaries. The reality is that people are capable of being firm, gentle, ambitious, assertive, yet patient. These qualities can coexist and show up in various combinations, whether it’s in relation to parenting or leadership roles.

Patience is the ability to stay calm or centred in a difficult situation, when things are not going our way or when our needs are not being met in the moment. It entails a quality of mindful steady presence, instead of getting angry, anxious, restless, irritated or frustrated when things are slow, taking time, particularly if there is ambiguity or a difference of opinion. It involves an awareness and acceptance of the fact that situations or interactions may not be going as we would have liked, with the conscious choice of regulating our emotions and feelings. As a result, patience is reflected in acts of delayed gratification and the ability to regulate our own mood.

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